Through the eyes of African Chef

Exploring food’s soft power with chef and author Nompumelelo Mqwebu

Nompumelelo Mqwebu is an enterprising chef who has travelled the world to hone her skills. Yet her roots remain firmly planted in her homeland of Africa. She has recently released her debut cookbook, Through the Eyes of an African Chef.

Chef Mwqwebu runs Africa Meets Europe Cuisine, a skills-training and hospitality service provider, as well as the Mzansi International Culinary Festival. Before this, Nompumelelo spent 10 years training and mastering her cooking skills around South Africa and the world, including at culinary schools and kitchens in New York, London, Paris, Bremen and Shannary. She has sat on various judging panels, including judging the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Having trained at the prestigious Ballymalloe Cookery School in Ireland, Chef Mqwebu has mastered the art of making yoghurts, butters, preserves and countless more recipes and methodologies that are included in her book. We chatted to Nompumelelo about food as a powerful ingredient in human and foreign relations.

In your years of travels as a chef, have you experienced the “soft power”of food?

Yes, food transmits with it a cultural identity. When people taste your food, they appreciate and embrace your identity and culture. This bonds well in business as well as in social circles. Offering your food means opening your world. Hospitality is incomplete without food. As part of etiquette, people are catered for when they visit. There’s a certain level of respect people afford you, when you display information of who you are.

A chapter in your book is titled “Ukuhamba Kuzala Induna (My Food Travels)”- if you had the opportunity to travel to any of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where would you go and why?

Brazil- from what I have learnt over the years about Brazil being the largest country in South America and the most diverse, it fascinates me. I would love to try their local dishes and explore the influences of their neighbouring countries, such as Venezuela and Peru. I am interested in gauging if the food I have eaten outside Brazil, which is said to be authentic Brazilian, measures up to the cooking in Brazil. Dig into their indigenous and ingredients and cooking methods to feed me into their cultural identity.

Each of the BRIC countries have a signature drink or dish – what would South Africa’s be?

South Africa is not a one-nation one-dish type of country. We have indigenous ingredients from our diverse cultures that make up this South African nation, reflected by our 11 official languages. From samp with marrow, to dovhi la mukusule, tsama melon, springbok meat with maize meal rice, ting and many more!

What do you think other nations can learn from South Africa food techniques, from growing and harvesting to preparation and preservation?

The art of preserving meat called mukoki (biltong), which has been with us for decades. It has been transformed to the rest of the world, but much of its important history if from the Khoisan hunters, VhaVenda and other South Africa peoples and has been lost along the way. Another example is umqombothi (traditional Zulu beer) – the fermentation is an age-old formula using sorghum that has entered world trends, but which has been part of our daily lives for centuries. Even looking at the “new”nose-to-tail talk – it has always been here, the relationship between Africans and animals. The skin is used rather than thrown away. The skin is used rather than thrown away. The animal is eaten from the premium cuts to tripe. Horns, hooves, tail hair – everything has its use. Food waste is something of a new phenomenon by reviving our methods of old. 

What can be done to ensure South African effectively uses food for national branding purposes?

We must take up our food identity with the national pride it deserves. We need to listen to our visitors. They do not come to our country to taste their food; they are here for our food. They need us to genuinely welcome them by opening our culinary journey in earnest, sharing who we are that reflective of our roots and our food culture. We are a diverse nation, and that should be reflected fully in our cuisine. Embrace the cultures previously left in our culinary history.

What advice would you give South African chefs who are cooking beyond the borders of our country?

Keep it real. Show pride in your roots and our identity, which is brimming with diverse cultures that are yet to explored. Remember to know where you’re going- it’s important to know your history. 

 

 

 

Rich Mnisi is making his fashion’s voice heard

South African contemporary fashion designer Rich Mnisi is a force to be reckoned with. This designer attributes his inspiration to film, music, art and nature.

His love for fashion started at a very young age, where he used to play around with fabrics with his sister. As a teenager, he between studying law, architecture and fashion.

Mnisi decided on fashion and got his BA in Fashion Design from LISOF. He is now the founder of a brand called OATH that was established in 2014 that he uses to make his fashion voice heard. 

He is best known for his extremely androgynous style of design on the runway and has collaborated with local celebrities such as actor and musician Nakhane Toure’ and TV personality Maps Maponyane.

Mnisi has already featured in both local and international media such as Marie Claire, ELLE, GQ Online, Mail and Guardian and Vogue Italia.

In 2014, he was named the winner of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Joburg AFI Fastrack and AFI Young Designer of the Year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa.

This year, he introduced the “Africa Explosion” collection at the Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow. His collection was a mix of contemporary pieces infused with bright colours and had an over-the-top hat as a signature finish.

 

Source: Design Indaba

#LocalFindsWednesday: Gert-Johan Coetzee thinks ahead of the threads

South African fashion designer, Gert-Johan Coetzee has always been a fashion-lover. By the age of 6,  he was already taking sewing classes and dressing his pencils up in tissue paper.

GJC launched his label at 23 when he showed at SA Fashion Week in 2010. He is known for his red carpet hits, dressing the likes of Bonang Matheba, Minnie Dlamini-Jones, Pabi Moloi, Tamara Dey, Lira, Liezel van der Westhuizen, Cindy Nell and Terry Pheto.

During his second year at North West School of Design (2004), Gert won the High Fashion Award at the annual Vukani Awards ceremony.

His first commercial venture was as partner in the Diamond Face Couture label with businesswoman Uyanda Mbuli which launched in 2006. In that same year he won the SA’s Most Promising Young Designer award.

Gert is committed to developing the local fashion industry and decided to launch the GJC fashion bursary programme that includes personal mentorships and internships at his studio.

In April this year during SA Fashion Week, he showcased the golden 50th anniversary of the iconic Big Mac® burger with Big Mac® Fashion line.

Coetzee was chosen to mentor contestants, who will be competing to create clothes with different themes at a certain period, for a fashion TV series called Project Runway.

 

Source: safashionweek.co.za

Memorable moments of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life

The nation came to a standstill on Monday 2 April 2018 with the news of Mam’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s passing. The struggle heroine, who devoted her life to equality and women’s rights, died at the age of 81 at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg following a long illness.
An extract from the official press statement by the Mandela family reads:

“Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid. She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country. Her activism and resistance to apartheid landed her in jail on numerous occasions‚ eventually causing her banishment to the small town of Brandfort in the then Orange Free State.

She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognisable faces. She dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the people and for this was known far and wide as the Mother of the Nation.

The Mandela family are deeply grateful for the gift of her life and even as our hearts break at her passing‚ we urge all those who loved her to celebrate this most remarkable woman.”

She was often referred to as ‘Madiba’s (ex) wife’, but many do not know just how big her contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle was. Here are some of the memorable highlights in the Mother of the Nation’s life:

  • In 1953, Madikizela-Mandela moved to Johannesburg from her place of birth, Bizana (Eastern Cape) to pursue her Social Work studies at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work. She completed her degree in 1955 and became the first black medical social worker at Baragwanath Hospital.
  • She was first imprisoned in 1958 for her role in the anti-pass campaign, and in the same year married Nelson Mandela, a member of the African National Congress’ national executive who later became the first black president of the Democratic Republic of South Africa.
  • In 1969‚ Madikizela-Mandela became one of the firsts to be detained under Section 6 of theTerrorism Act of 1967. After being detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in a condemned cell at Pretoria Central Prison, she was charged under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.
  • She was at Mandela’s side the time he was realised from Robben Island in 1990.
  • In 1993 and 1997, Ma Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was elected president of the ANC Women’s League. 

Source : Independent Online , African News Agency/ANA

The Untold BRICS Stories: Entrepreneurship in India

By Aarti Betigeri

“India is a tremendously exciting place to be for entrepreneurs compared to 10 years ago. We now have stories of success, not just of big names but also in our own circles. That’s a great motivator.”

When Nishanth Chopra was doing an internship in his family’s textile production factory in regional southern India, he quickly realised that things were not always what they seemed. Fabric labelled “organic” was still being produced in an environment where chemical fumes would spew out of machines into the faces of factory workers, who were not always wearing protective gear. His father insisted that all chemicals complied with international organic regulations, but Chopra was unconvinced; so much so that he soon decided that, rather than join the 60-year-old family business, he would forge his own path.

“I’d discovered at university that my interests lay in sustainability, so when I came home, I realised that [the family business] was not for me. I had always wanted to do something ethical and environmentally friendly, but working with the chemicals and fumes didn’t appeal,” says Chopra, 22. After some thought, he settled on fashion: it was an industry that dovetailed nicely with the family trade, yet was something he could pursue in a sustainable way, and an industry that was exciting, interesting and would allow him to travel and meet people.

Fast forward to March this year and Oshadi (“essence of nature”) was born. It is a line that uses India’s unique textile heritage: natural dyes and handwoven fabrics, along with cutting-edge design. In just a few months and one small capsule collection in, Oshadi has exhibited at Paris Fashion Week and the Milan White Show. “I found a designer who has come out of Central St Martins and has also worked for some of the big fashion houses. He does the design while I focus on sourcing handloom textiles for it,” he says. It is a small capsule collection of dresses, pants, jackets and shirts, and the next one is due to drop in November.

Read more on BRICS JOURNAL